It may be cold in Toronto, but Rams baseball pitcher Jeremias Sucre can still picture the sun beating down on his back 11 years ago in Venezuela.
It’s 9 a.m. and already sweltering at the baseball diamond, but in Sucre’s eyes, it was “the perfect day to play baseball.” An 11-year-old Jeremias Sucre is decked out in a grey and red jersey, “Guaicaipuro,” a name steeped in Venezuelan history, written on the front.
He’s wearing what he calls his “lucky charm,” his black Rawlings baseball glove. He pitches four perfect innings with that glove, before he reaches his pitch count and has to be taken out. His team had strict rules about pitch counts to protect young pitchers arms like Sucre’s. He wants to stay in, but he’s not allowed.
Sucre is 22 years old now, but that hot morning where he owned the mound as a youngster remains one of his favourite.
Sucre describes San Felix, the community where he spent his childhood, as “pretty and tight knit.”
“Back home you know everybody on your street or the next block,” he says. Everybody knows each other.”
His neighbours all had kids who were around the same age as he was, so he grew up playing baseball with some of his best friends. Together, they improved as individuals and as a team. The baseball field, which was basically a huge soccer field, was a five-minute walk from his house.
Although San Felix was a pleasant place to be during the day, it wasn’t as safe once the sun went down. He said that “here and there” he did hear the occasional gunshot after night fell..
“It was very dangerous, you couldn’t stay (out) past 9 p.m. on the streets,” Sucre said. “Compared to Canada (there is) not much lighting on the street, and that’s when people try to steal your possessions.”
Although Sucre was actually born in Toronto, at three years of age he moved to San Felix when his parents were denied permanent residency in Canada.
In 2012, at 17 years old, he made the decision to move back to Toronto alone. He didn’t speak any English and was moving to a country he’d only spent time in as a baby and young toddler. Despite having its challenges, Sucre knew Toronto was where he wanted to live.
“I was staying with my parents’ friends, and they told me ‘here you’re going to get a lot of opportunities,’” Sucre said.
His parents were right. Sucre has benefitted from opportunities he has created for himself. Sucre is an electrical engineering student at Ryerson, and has made a home for himself on Ryerson’s baseball team as a pitcher and a third baseman. Today, he’s in his third year of the program, and next season will be his fourth playing for the Ryerson baseball team. He can throw a 142 kilometre-per-hour fastball. That’s 88 miles per hour in the imperial baseball world. His two best pitches: a fastball and a curveball.
His coach at Ryerson, Ben Rich, had nothing but good things to say about his player and his performance on the field.
“We count on him to give us an outstanding start (and) put us in a position to win,” he said. “His on field performance particularly on the mound last year was exceptional.”
It’s also what Sucre brings outside of his skills on the diamond that make him such an asset to the team.
“There’s just the attitude he brings, his enthusiasm,” Rich said. “I think that is often a part of the culture of Latin American ball players, it’s infectious for his teammates.”
Sucre is infectious because he’s passionate about what he does, not only on the baseball field, but in the classroom.
“I’m doing something that I like at school, plus I’m going to pursue my baseball career,” he said. That 11-year-old kid who once owned the mound in Venezuela hasn’t stopped playing. He’s only moved places and moved mounds, to where he found a different place he can shine, at Ryerson. Baseball season starts up again in September, and with a few months yet to go until spring – let alone until warm summer days hit – Sucre will have to wait.